Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

Tag: word origins

artichokes

Artichokes to zucchinis: a vegetarian alphabet

I’ve been a vegetarian for a little over half my life, and I know certain struggles that vegetarians have to put up with. But one area we don’t struggle with is language. I decided to take a mosey through various words connected with vegetables and vegetarianism, and discovered that the produce aisle at the supermarket […]

Read more »
kermit

A Muppet, moi?

With Muppets Most Wanted, the latest in a long line of Muppet movies, releasing in cinemas, what better time to check out the lingo of our puppet pals? The word muppet was actually coined by Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) currently dates the word to 1955 when the […]

Read more »
toilet

How we stopped wearing toilets and started using them

It’s a fascinating fact of linguistic history that some words hardly change their main meaning or develop new meanings, while other words swing Tarzan-like from one semantic treetop to another leaving their past completely behind. One such word is toilet. ‘A kind of Toilet on their Heads’ As you might expect of a word derived […]

Read more »
caesar

Beware the Ides of March! Get up to your elbows in the language of Julius Caesar

Tomorrow is the Ides of March, a day made infamous by the prophetic soothsayer from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. With a “Tongue shriller then all the Musicke,” he warns the skeptical emperor to “Beware the Ides of March” at the top of Act One.  Eight scenes later, the Ides arrives and (spoiler alert) Caesar is […]

Read more »
tea

All the tea in China: English words of Chinese origin

An extract from the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins Chinese civilization stretches back at least to the 3rd millennium BC. It is the source of many of the world’s great inventions, including paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing, not to mention china (porcelain) itself. But maybe the greatest contribution that the country and its language have […]

Read more »
OED appeals image

The OED needs you: can you find earlier evidence of these First World War words?

To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often […]

Read more »
roses

How well do you know the language of love?

Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can sign and seal a foil-embossed card and attach it to a heart-shaped box of chocolate, all addressed to a loved one for Valentine’s Day. But it takes someone truly versed in romantic delights to know the difference between an allumeuse and an amourette, a chocolatier and a ballotin, an […]

Read more »
currencies

Origins of currencies: from jagged edges to flowers

A fistful of dollars The dollar is one of the most common currencies in the world used by the US, Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, and Singapore to name a few. The origin of the dollar, also the Slovenian tolar, is from a coin called the Joachimsthaler, shortened to Thaler (or daler in early Flemish […]

Read more »

Tweets